The late Merritt DeVoe started his postal career delivering mail by horse-drawn sleigh in the 1920s. Now his granddaughter, Joy, is getting involved in an effort that may help the U.S. Postal Service stay solvent and boost her business as well.
Joy DeVoe is running a retail postal space in the family’s farm store, DeVoe’s Rainbow Orchards. Next to the summer squash and sweet corn, people can mail letters, buy stamps, send packages and buy packing materials on Route 9 in Halfmoon, just south of Sitterly Road.
No postal employees work there. Rather, the counter is staffed by Devoe’s employees, whom the postal service has trained.
“This is almost coming full circle for us,” said Joy DeVoe, the store manager, showing off a photo of her grandfather in his mail sleigh.
The 10-foot-by-10-foot retail space is equipped with a scale and computer, just like a post office window, and fully stocked with envelopes and boxes.
As the Postal Service closes other locations and lays off employees, the contract postal unit doesn’t require that the post office hire any workers or pay rent. The postal service provides materials, equipment and signs, trains the retailer’s employees and then steps back and lets them do the work, said postal service spokeswoman Maureen Marion.
In return, the retailer gets to keep a portion of the proceeds from sales, while the rest goes to the postal service, Marion said.
About 100,000 retail businesses sell stamps to customers, but being set up as a CPU is a step beyond that. A CPU can do almost everything a post office can do, minus selling money orders, taking passport applications and renting out post office boxes, she said.
There are 38,000 CPUs in the nation.
In at least one way, DeVoe’s is more user-friendly than a regular post office: After Labor Day, it will be open Sundays.
“I know a lot of our customers will be happy with that,” said Emily Lubin, postmaster for the Clifton Park post office.
The store supplements the two post offices in the Clifton Park ZIP code — the main one on Route 9 just north of Route 146 and the Halfmoon branch near Crescent Road off Exit 8 of the Northway.
“It gives customers another place to go,” Lubin said. “It’s kind of in between our two stations.”
And it’s a nod by the postal service to a community that for decades has fought for its own postal identity separate from neighboring Clifton Park.
“Halfmoon has been fighting for a post office for as long as I’ve been involved in government, 30 years,” said Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione, a Halfmoon resident.
However, the retail store doesn’t give Halfmoon its own ZIP code.
The DeVoe’s opening comes in the midst of the postal service closing post offices and processing centers in an effort to cut $20 billion in operations costs by 2015.